Zebrafish key to understanding link between calcium deficiency and colon cancer
Washington – Researchers studying zebrafish embryo skin have decoded cell messages underlying abnormal colonic cell growth of the kind that could lead to tumors and colon cancer in people suffering from calcium deficiency.
The researchers also tested this new mechanism in human colon cancer cells.
Cunming Duan, professor in the University of Michigan Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Ultimately, said that the new biological mechanism unraveled in zebrafish will help scientists understand the pathways that fuel low calcium-related abnormal colonic cell growth and how to stop that growth.
To do this, Duan and colleagues used a fluorescent protein to mark a type of epithelial cell, whose job it is to import calcium into the body.
When the researchers placed the zebrafish embryos in calcium-depleted water, they were surprised that it activated a particular growth factor that stimulates division and growth in these epithelial cells.
The calcium transporter (TRPV5/6) must be present for this activation, which is an apparent survival mechanism for animals to import calcium into cells in low-calcium environments.